So i just finished my first semester of college. In my intro to programming class we made a bunch of super interesting (sarcasm) console applications. Any suggestions on ways other than just messing around with console applications for a beginner C++ student to improve?
Know the feeling. I was frustrated at the same thing. Console applications aren't very interesting what with all that string reversing and linked lists, but at the same time there is no way I can argue with the other responses given.
To answer your question, pick a topic your interested in. Seeing as I learned C/C++ I headed in the direction of learning GTK+ and SDL. GTK+ should give you a good start on GUI and SDL on 2D graphics (this could lead onto opengl later on). I also recommend you going over beej's guide to networking (its a free online ebook), this should give you a start on networking.
Depends on what you mean by console apps, but there is nothing wrong with console applications to learn C++. It all depends on how complex they are.
You could try writing a gui app with something like QT, but then you'll spend most of the time learning the framework.
You could write a game in something like OpenGL, SDL etc.
The problem with C++ is that it is a huge step from simple stuff to something useful.
Console applications may seem boring but they are essential to the development of the programmers ability to think of solutions. The basics of programming are always overlooked these days with the shiny stuff. I still use console applications a lot to test out ideas before building the high-level stuff on them. Once you have become good at the low-level stuff, you become a programmer with better understanding and flexibility and also have good programming habits.
Try challenging problems each time. I would recommend you Cracking the Coding Interview by Gayle Laakmann to get challenging questions and insights. You are at the best time in your career to start building up on these fundamentals and polishing them up into being a great programmer some day. Good luck.